By Anne Marie Amacher
Despite continuing economic challenges in the Midwest, enrollment in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Davenport shows a slight gain of two students this academic year.
According to fall enrollment figures, preschool enrollment rose by 23 students despite St. Andrew Preschool in Blue Grass closing after the previous academic year. Elementary schools have gained four students overall this academic year, while secondary schools show a decrease of 25 students.
Lee Morrison, the diocese’s superintendent of Catholic schools, applauds families who continue to send their children to Catholic schools in the midst of a still-struggling economy. “This is good news for the Diocese of Davenport,” he said of the enrollment report. “Obviously we have some challenges in some of our schools, but we keep promoting Catholic education and what our schools have to offer.”
Morrison pointed out that School Tuition Organizations (STOs) and other financial aid assistance has helped retain and even attract families to Catholic schools.
Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in Burlington saw a gain of 35 students this year. Principal Ron Glasgow said a small class graduated this past spring and a large sixth-grade class entered this fall. “We are still doing well retaining and adding to the middle-school population.
“Our students, faculty and parents are saying good things about Notre Dame which has given us some real momentum. Our business office has done an excellent job with the STO. Our development director is visible in the community. The priests are supportive of our students.
“Our message of faith, academics and activities is taking hold. Our school offers value for the tuition dollar,” Glasgow said.
Another school with a healthy increase is All Saints Catholic School in Davenport, which gained 21 students overall. Principal Jeanne VonFeldt said, “We work hard at All Saints to have our students obtain a strong faith foundation, have good values and we work at getting them ready for the future. I know we have high expectations with our academics as well as our discipline. We make sure that our students are accountable for their actions — both good and bad.”
She said All Saints celebrates its diversity, has a strong sense of family and community and continues to encourage families to get to know each other.
Even though enrollment isn’t up at all schools, work continues to attract students and make a Catholic education as affordable as possible.
Principal Teresa Beenblossom at St. James Catholic School in Washington said she can’t pinpoint any one reason why enrollment is down by 14 students this year. She noted several students transferred to the public school system at fourth grade, which is a transition year for the school system.
“I feel that this year we are really working hard to promote what a wonderful academic education St. James provides, along with the fact it is provided in a Christian environment with small class sizes. We have top-notch teachers who are working to understand the needs of each learner in the classroom, and creating an environment where all students can learn. Our past ITBS scores are proof of the high academic level our students achieve.”
Beenblossom admits the school’s biggest deficit in the past has been technology; however, thanks to Cargill, JWV Pork and the Riverside Casino, the school is moving in the right direction with new iPads and MacBooks. Also, this year St. James hosted an Alive After Five community event for people to check out the school and staff. Because of its success, St. James will host another Alive After Five during Catholic Schools Week in January.
Assumption High School in Davenport saw a drop of 26 students due to a small incoming freshmen class. “We knew this coming into the year,” said President Andy Craig. The school continues to offer a student financial assistance program through Scott County’s Embracing Our Future and STO financial assistance plans. “We also offer payment plans to fit the needs of our families.”
In Ottumwa, Seton Catholic School was down 21 students when enrollment figures were calculated this fall. Principal Duane Siepker said 10 students and their families moved out of the area and 11 transferred to the public school system — five because of financial reasons. The other six families gave no specific reason for leaving.
As of Nov. 1, Seton has added five new students in grades K-5 and three in its preschool. Siepker said the schools strive to be proactive in growing enrollment by building a meaningful and long-term relationship with families — especially Hispanic families and all those attending the preschool.
“We want them to know that they would become an important part of our school family. We are confident that our kindergarten enrollment will be 16 or more next year.” That compares to a current class of nine kindergartners.
Secondly, a team effort is underway — via the use of social media — “to tell our story of offering the very best teaching and learning,” he said.